“Just now,” said the sergeant, “the Germans were making the most desperate attack of the war. The British were at bay, with their backs against the wall. It was upon the men in the training-camps of America that the decision rested; there was no one but them to save the day, to save the rest of the world from falling under the hoofs of the Hun monster. Would they do their part?” Jimmie Higgins heard the answer from those two thousand young throats, and the pacifist in him shrunk deeper out of sight.
But the pacifist was never entirely silent. War was wrong! War was wrong! It was a wicked and brutal way for human beings to settle their disagreements. If human beings were not yet intelligent enough to listen to reason—well, even so, that didn’t make war right! A man had to have principles, and to stand by them—how else could he make the world come his way? Yes, war was wrong! But, meantime, war was here; and calling it wrong did not put a stop to it! What the devil was a fellow to do?
As soon as Jimmie was able to work, they took him to the part of the camp where a motor-cycle division was training. Here was a big repair-shop, with plenty of damaged machines upon which he might display his skill. He did not know the particular engine they used here, but he soon learned the secrets of it, and satisfied the officers in charge that he knew how to take one apart and put it together again, to replace and mend tyres, to clean ball-bearings and true crooked rims. “You’re all right,” they said. “And you’re needed like the devil over there. You won’t have to wait long.”
There was a platform where the trains came into the camp, and every few hours now there came a long train to be loaded with men. Jimmie got his notice, and packed his kit and answered roll call and took his place; at sundown of the next day he was detrained at a “mobilization-camp”—another huge city, described in the cautious military fashion as “Somewhere in New Jersey”, though everybody within a hundred miles knew its exact location. Here was a port, created for the purposes of war, with docks and wharves where the fleets of transports were loaded with supplies and troops. The vessels sailed in fleets, carrying thirty or forty thousand men at once. From the port of New York alone there was going out a fleet like this every week—the answer of America to the new drive of the Hun.
One met here, not merely the fighting-men, but the forces of all the complicated service behind the lines: gangs of lumbermen from the far North-west, who were to fell the forests of France and make them into railroad-ties and timber for trenches; railway-men, miners, and construction-gangs, engineers and signalmen, bridge-builders and road-makers, telephone-linemen and operators, the drivers of forty thousand motor-cars and of five thousand locomotives; bakers and cooks, menders of